2019-04-12 / Front Page

Transitions cooks up feast featuring celebrity and local chefs

By Cathy Cobbs

For the five nationally acclaimed chefs who are concocting their signature dishes for the 2019 annual Chefs’ Feast benefitting Transitions, it’s a memorable occasion and a chance to give back to the community. The event will be held Sunday, April 28 at Terra Restaurant.

For the two sous chefs, one a current resident and another a former client, April 28 is probably one of the most important days in their lives.

Mike Pressley is from Eastover, S.C., and a graduate of Lower Richland High School. He has lived at Transitions several times over the past two years. Currently, he has been in residence for a month and is determined to save his money so he can achieve financial independence. He has been working for a landscaping company, but in his words, “cooking is my passion.” The way he came about his love for preparing food is both tragic and heartwarming.

“My neighbor had a terrible accident—his hand was caught in a hay baler,” Mike said. “He reached in with his other hand to pull that hand out, and it also got stuck. As a result, both of his arms were amputated.”

After a long period of recovery, Mike’s neighbor, Roosevelt Washington, was discharged from the hospital but was unable to work or cook for himself. Mike, at the age of five, was sent over to Mr. Washington’s house to assist him with meal preparation.

“He would tell me exactly how to prepare each meal—put in this much salt, or this spice, to make the meal perfect. His favorite dish was fried chicken, but I cooked anything he had a taste for,” Mike said. “From when I was five, until I graduated from high school, I would prepare Mr. Washington’s dinner and breakfast. That’s where I learned to cook.”

His love for food preparation has been with him ever since. In all of his relationships, Mike has been the chef, learning how to make kid-friendly food for his child and significant others’ children and expanding his food horizons depending on his audience.

When Mike came to Transitions, it was only natural he join the kitchen staff as part of his required community service.

“The camaraderie in the kitchen is important to me,” he said. “Being homeless and living here has the tendency to turn you into a loner. Being able to come into the kitchen and make a good meal gives me a great feeling. I need that stability now. It grounds me. Instead of being that bouncing ball that bounces all around and rolls down the hill getting away….. Being in the kitchen makes me feel dependable.”

Mike is overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the celebrity chefs at this year’s event. “Being selected to be in that kind of arena to help makes me feel a little proud of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.”

Plus, Mike’s birthday is April 29, and he is thrilled about his early gift.

“I can’t wait to meet everyone and learn from them.”

Tia Everette, originally from Wilmington, Del., travelled to Columbia to pursue a dream “that didn’t work out.” She came to Transitions in September of 2018 and moved out in March of 2019. She had previously worked at a restaurant doing food prep and was instantly attracted to Transitions’ kitchen.

“It’s really the only place I could go to clear my head and think,” she said. “The people here made me feel comfortable from the start.”

Even though Tia has graduated and is employed at a pharmaceutical company packaging medication, she longs to move back into the food-service industry and sees Chefs’ Feast as an opportunity to hone her skills.

“Chefs’ Feast is going to be awesome and a great learning experience,” she said. “I hope to learn and figure out a way to get a job in the future. It’s such a great feeling to see people outside the kitchen and have them say, ‘that was a great meal. Thank you so much.’”

The celebrity chefs who will be cooking along side Everette and Pressley have impressive resumes, as do the local hosts, Terra’s Mike Davis and Small Sugar’s Sarah Simmons. Kwame Onwuachi, Erik Bruner-Yang, Claire Robinson, and Lauren Resler- Stupak will come together with Mike Davis at his beloved restaurant, Terra, with each of them cooking a course for the 2019 Transitions Chefs’ Feast.

An agent of alternatives, Erik Bruner-Yang creates space. Through his Washington D.C.-based concept development company, Foreign National, he offers an alternative: food and space as commons. Bruner-Yang was born in Taiwan and raised in the States.

Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington, D.C. He was born on Long Island and raised in New York City, Nigeria, and Louisiana.

Chef Mike Davis opened Terra in 2006. The restaurant has earned a Wine Spectator award every year since its inception.

Lauren Resler-Stupak is graduate of The California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif.

Claire Robinson combines her passions for food and television in 5- Ingredient Fix, a Food Network series featuring delicious eclectic recipes made with five ingredients or fewer.

Proceeds from Chef’s Feast will benefit Transitions, a local homeless center dedicated to moving people off the streets and into permanent housing. Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased by calling 803-707-4861 X223.

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